As a Precision Nutrition Coach, I discuss nutrition topics and answer questions just about everyday. How important is it to eat organic? What supplements should I take? Should I go "plant based?" Have you ever done a juice cleanse? What about keto? Should I try fasting?
While these are all great questions, they might not be the most important things to focus on as a starting point in making nutrition changes. Often times we try to jump to a more extreme change or get seduced by the latest nutrition craze when we haven't developed a base level understanding of healthy eating. And like trying to jump up to the second story of a building instead of taking the stairs to get there, we often end up frustrated and not getting where we want to go. Here are the most important things to master first when it comes to nutrition:
1. Eat slowly and stop at about 80% full. It should take at least 10 to 15 minutes to eat a meal. If you eat faster than that, not only is it hard on the digestion, but it takes about 15 minutes for your sense of satisfaction from your meal to kick in. It you eat until you feel 100% full, you will likely end up feeling bloated and over-stuffed shortly after you are done eating.
2. Have a protein source at every meal. Protein contains amino acids which your body needs to repair and recover, and it also helps you feel fuller for longer. Women should have about a palm sized portion, and men should have two palm sized portions with breakfast, lunch and dinner.
3. Get plenty of veggies and fruits. You should aim for at least 4-6 servings of vegetables and 1 or 2 servings of fruit each day. A serving size is about the size of your fist, or two fists for leafy greens.
4. Make good choices when it comes to starchy carbs like potatoes, grains, pastas, breads etc. As much as you can, you should opt for minimally processed starchy carbohydrates. Things like whole grains such as rice, quinoa, and oats are better choices than highly processed foods like white bread and pasta. Ideally for fat loss purposes, you want to eat these foods mainly after you have just completed a workout. A serving size is about a cupped palm.
5. Eat healthy fats. Most people get lots of saturated fat from meats and dairy products, but not as much unsaturated fat as they should. Include avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil and fish oil, and look for ways to reduce saturated fat.
6. Drink mostly water. You should aim for about half your bodyweight in ounces everyday (if you weigh 200 pounds, try for 100 ounces) or at least 2 liters. Juice, sodas (even diet), sugary teas etc. should be avoided. Herbal tea is a great option if you get bored with water, or keep things interesting with lemon or lime wedges. You can even get fancy with cucumber or mint!
By the time you’ve mastered these guidelines, you should already be experiencing some changes in how your body looks and feels, and you may never need to go further. Or perhaps you might still benefit from some adjustments (hopefully with the guidance of a coach) to help you keep going depending on your goals and how you are feeling. For example, you might be consistently doing all of the above, but have a lifestyle where intermittent fasting might be a better choice than the typical breakfast, lunch and dinner timing. Or you might notice that you still feel bloated and don't have the energy you'd like to have, and it might be good to look at eliminating certain types of foods from your diet.
While there is no "one-size-fits-all" method for good nutrition, the basics are always the place to start. Take the stairs to the second story when you are ready, and don't let the latest "documentaries" and fads make you feel like you have to jump.
Strength & Love, Kati